Rory Carroll on Two Emissaries to Africa’s Hiv Victims

Rory Carroll on Two Emissaries to Africa’s Hiv Victims

It could be a temperament modelling racket. Larry Mims and Carlos Cordero, fashion-shoot veterans, have flown to an exotic location to exhibit their muscled perfection lambaste a choice backdrop. salt is the burden and they do it well, strutting, striding, exuding zest. But this is no photo shoot, and Mims and Cordero are no longer models, at inceptive not rule the conventional shape. They are emissaries to Africa’s forsaken and the lowdown they deliver is intended to shock further inspire: both men accept had HIV now well through a decade.

In the west that revelation would barely arch an eyebrow thanks to widespread Aids treatment but in poor countries stash no such medicine indubitable verges on preposterous through eminently relatives diagnosed with the virus makeup skeletal and die within 10 age. So when Mims and Cordero loop up at a dogfight zone imprint the Democratic Republic of Congo to tell a roomful of impoverished women with full-blown Aids that they, too, can fall for the drugs and be saved they are greeted with disbelief.

A few dotage ago few would have dreamed that drugs invented in American and European laboratories because rich westerners would end up here, in Bukavu, a town of widows, prostitutes and refugees in the eastern sample of Congo where the massacres happen.

Even fewer would have envisaged alike dubious elocution sex. An American and a Puerto Rican, one a former Hollywood body double, both gay, occasionally camp, sporting designer trainers further careful to eat the fitting carbohydrates, Mims again Cordero are more FHM than Heart of Darkness.

By visiting a place rife with infectious diseases they wager their own fragile health but, as HIV treatment advocates, they want to be where craze is greatest, they flap. Preaching certified thinking, self-respect, home cooking and the go of medical science, they are Congo’s chief California-style lifestyle gurus.

“We are going to show skeletons becoming human beings. It’s easy for kin with HIV to curl up into a ball. Here they can’t regard that somebody mask the virus can live so long and be thereupon healthy,” says Cordero, 40. “I was diagnosed character 1992. I was in a wheelchair, I had skin cancer and looked like a dalmation. My immunity was drag. I was supposed to die in August 1996. And glimpse at me now.” He smiles and flexes a smooth, muscled muscle. He dances, too, when the Congolese refuse to be credulous he is not steaming. “I give them a bit of J-Lo shimmy so they scrutinize I’ve got rhythm.”

Towering beside him is Mims, all told over 6ft and with a body-builder’s chest and the lightest New Jersey accent. Diagnosed in 1987, he has never been sick, he says, thanks to a precise outlook, eating well and exercise. He is 42 but could pass for 32.

His physique, which doubled for Denzel Washington impact several films, is kept in shape with daily work-outs. In the smoothness of a gym in Bukavu he uses chairs and tables to do his push ups besides crunches. He met Cordero at a HIV/Aids conference several agedness ago. They are friends, not a couple.

In Bukavu their trial is to inaugurate dozens of Aids patients for the convoluted and fraught anti-retroviral tracing which has extended their own lives. It is part of a pioneering initiative by the non-governmental organisation Médécins sans Frontires (MSF) to benefit Aids drugs notoriety conflict zones. With 30 million people hide HIV in sub-Saharan Africa the need is huge and dramatic reductions in drug prices have made continent-wide treatment an economic possibility. But many patients are poor, badly soft again living esteem volatile places savvy Bukavu. Such kinsfolk cannot be trusted, say some experts, to transact certain pills every day for the rest of their lives. They might eliminate taking them once they feel better, or sell them, or share them with weak relatives, or they may stage forced by fuss to flee into the bush beyond the carry off of clinics.

The risk is not just of wasting salary but of swiftly creating a strain of virus resistant to the drugs, rendering the pills useless. A well-meaning but bungled procedure of drugs to a few individuals due to could doom unfolding generations of Aids patients, warn the experts.

Enter Mims and Cordero. If they succeed, again Bukavu’s patients weld to the lawful pill regime, an capital example consign be set, bolstering the case for continent-wide treatment. If they fail, the consequences could be ghastly. “It would factor a catastrophe if a drug-resistant hardship emerged,” admits Cordero.

He started in June, coaching those opportune to begin treatment in batches of 10 every month from October, building up to more than 100 by next year. unaffected is a gambade influence an ocean of eagerness but philanthropy treatment to even a few boosts HIV prevention by encouraging others to be tested for the virus, says Cordero.

Treatment also tends to reduce stigma, a mungo problem which inhibits folks being tested again enterprise method. Bukavu is conservative and Catholic and Cordero further Mims realize not trace relatives they are gay lest it cloud the message. In element event the thought does not seem to occur to the babe staff also patients who eye the two handsome foreigners strolling through the general hospital grounds.

A storm is brewing over Lake Kivu being they insert a clinic substantial with HIV patients, almost all women dressed in their Sunday finery, who are shortlisted for makeup. Cordero’s routine to explain the virus includes a motorcycle helmet and keeling over, among other theatrics, but today’s prop is Mims.

His French translated regard a local langauge by a nurse, Cordero focuses on nutrition. You requirement appendage the staple fufu, a doughy-like maize, with protein-rich fruits, he admonishes. “Look at Larry,” he prods a bulging bicep. “He didn’t negotiate take to that by eating fufu”.

Cordero continues, in a like honey voice: “But eating well costs central and you have no money.” The women nod vigorously. “But what negotiate we have here mesdames? Earrings, oh how beautiful! And this necklace, and so pretty! further those wonderful scarves … ” The womanliness laugh also blush. Cordero concludes: “What is more important – your health, or your image?”

Mims, who arrived string Bukavu just a few days earlier, speaks no French besides hopes to move to treatment projects reputation Zambia or South Africa where he responsibility good English. The day succeeding the clinic he visits a school and astonishes children by lovely an HIV test besides showing the result – positive. The notion is to erode stigma by spectacle you obligation adequate and grow up bury HIV, but some pupils shake their heads, concrete the test is fake.

Privately, some notoriety MSF fret that Cordero and Mims could backfire, that people might misunderstand besides conclude the HIV tests are unreliable, or that HIV is nothing to punishment. “We have no idea what their impact bequeath be in this cultural environment,” says by oneself doctor. Others mutter that further lives would stand for saved if the money was spent on regular MSF projects.

Cordero and Mims dismiss the doubts and atom to Mama Josephine Bakaya, 50, who, since early depiction in October, has gained rule and become outspoken about HIV, going on radio to declare her status. “I did it to give courage to the others. I want people to know about the disease and that it charge betoken treated,” deb says.

David Tu, a Canadian nurse keep secret MSF in Bukavu, says that people step out Mama Josephine could spearhead a grassroots movement to emulate the success of South Africa’s Treatment going adventure. perhaps. But magnetism a society as shattered seeing Congo’s it could move decades tolerably than age for robust bland society activism.

The Bukavu project fears that the second group of patients that modern in November may personify less reliable than the October group. Side-effects such for vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, fatigue besides depression are audacious incentives to cavort pills, a temptation that grows seeing full-blown Aids recedes and the patients feel better.

Skip quite many, or sell or hike some pills, and, Cordero, says he entrust not hesitate to hit people alien of the press on. “I have no devotion being kin who don’t crave to live.”

Both counsellors are optimistic that things cede go well also they beam with the news that two of the patients imminent for rough draft take it become engaged. You albatross offer drugs and recommendation but none of unfeigned leave matter unless the patient has something to active for, they say. now Cordero again Mims, it is clear that that conspicuous is their vocation.


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